Veterans History Project: Bob Scobie

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Flying was always in his blood. He just needed a little taste to get hooked. Retired Marine Captain Bob Scobie made a career out of flying airplanes. Scobie joined the Marine Corps in 1962 after a recruiter who knew of Scobie’s love of flight convinced the college freshman to take a trip during spring break. Well, it wasn’t exactly a trip.

“The recruiter asked me ‘what am I doing on spring break?’ and I responded ‘what am I doing?’” said the three time Air Medal winner. “(The recruiter) grabbed me and put me on a World War II era C-47 and flew me to Texas. It was the first flight I ever took. On my second flight on the airplane we were out doing takeoffs, and I said ‘oh yeah!’ I was hooked.”

Scobie was shipped to Parris Island, SC where he was inserted into the top Marine Drill Sergeant’s squad. After completing basic training, Scobie annoyed enough people that he was finally allowed into flight school, despite the fact he was still an enlisted man and never completed officer’s school. In flight school, Scobie trained under Senator John McCain, and experience Scobie has never forgotten. “(McCain) was great. He taught me so many things that kept me and my men alive in combat.”

At the height of the Vietnam conflict, Scobie was sent to Asia, where he became a smashing hit amongst fellow Marine Corps. troops. Scobie was revered for his leadership abilities, and held several different duties, including Forward Artillery Observer and he also took flight lead on several combat missions with his 1st Marine Aircraft Wing squadron of F-8 Crusaders.

Scobie also flew F-4 Phantoms, where he participated in a few record setting acts. First, Scobie flew to more than 2,000mph, becoming the first pilot on record to fly an aluminum aircraft to that speed and live to tell about it. Scobie also took the F-4 to an altitude of 93,000ft. It was an experience he brags about to this day.

“Nobody would give me a pressure suit, so I just went for it anyway. It was worth every bit of the risk. Not only did I survive without the pressure suit, but at that altitude, the sky becomes the deepest black imaginable, and the stars stop twinkling and turn into white hot points of fire!” Scobie exclaimed.

During one battle on the ground, Scobie saved himself and a radioman when he looked up to realize two mortars were about to rain down on his location. “I screamed to get down, and then I jumped on top of my radioman to protect him. The mortar landed right where I was standing, and a piece of shrapnel hit my leg. I never reported it though, so there was no Purple Heart awarded.”

Scobie retired from military service in 1976 and took a job with Lockheed’s Skunk Works division, working on top secret projects including the SR-71 Blackbird, and later leading the charge on the F-117 Nighthawk, more commonly known as the Stealth Fighter. Scobie enjoyed a 30-year career with Lockheed before retiring in 2008.

Since his retirement, Scobie has spent his days writing a book about the many experiences he had in the Marine’s. The book is estimated to hit the shelves next summer. Scobie has also pursued a hobby of acting, and has landed roles in a few television shows, as well as a spot in the prestigious Screen Actors Guild. He is married with one daughter.

Of all the things Scobie is most proud of in his life, one story will never be trumped. “In all of my years as a leader in the Marines, I never once lost a troop, and my enemy never, ever walked away.”